Australia’s Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is having foreign representatives over for a kangaroo dinner as the government seeks to increase consumption of the meat in overseas markets.
“It should be a resource we use,” Joyce told reporters in Canberra before tonight’s gathering. “I’ll be having a range of ambassadors to dinner at Parliament House and we’re going to be having kangaroo on the menu.”
While the kangaroo is a national symbol, appearing on the coat of arms and the one dollar coin as well as the tail of Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN)’s jets, in some regions the animals are considered pests as they damage crops and fences while competing with livestock for drinking water in droughts. The kangaroo industry is worth about A$270 million ($242 million) a year, according to the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia.
The envoys’ dinner “is to try and break down some of those conceits you could easily understand that somebody not from Australia would hold,’ Joyce said yesterday. Representatives from Russia, China, the Philippines, Thailand and the European Union will attend, according to a spokesman for the minister, who asked not to be identified in line with department policy.
Kangaroo meat and skins are shipped to more than 55 countries, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which said exports of meat to Europe started in 1959. The European Union and Russia are the most significant markets, with U.S. and Asian sales rising, it said on its website.
Australia is the world’s third-biggest shipper of beef and veal, fourth-biggest exporter of wheat and third-largest supplier of cotton and sugar, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 70 percent of Queensland is in drought, according to the state government. New South Wales, last season’s second-biggest wheat producer, had the driest January since 2003, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
There are about 40 million grey kangaroos in Australia, according to Joyce. The minister is seeking to ‘‘break the notion that exists overseas that there are only a few kangaroos left in Australia,” he said in an e-mailed statement today.
Quotas for the number of kangaroos to be culled are set annually as a proportion of estimated populations, according to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Annual harvest levels of about 15 percent of the grey kangaroo and wallaroo populations and about 20 percent for red kangaroos are considered sustainable, it says.
Many kangaroos “are staring at death because of the drought and because they aren’t controlled at all,” said Joyce, 46, who grew up on a cattle and sheep property near Woolbrook in New South Wales. “The best way of looking after kangaroos is through a controlled harvest.”
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